Archive | September, 2014

Would you have gone to jail for a client?

Do What is Right, Let the Consequences Follow

I believe we must do what is right, let the consequences follow. The challenge is that sometimes the consequences are negative. Twenty years ago I had an experience that had me saying, “I never felt more humiliated for doing the right thing.” A friend of mine summarized it differently: “Young you big dog! You can’t call yourself a trial lawyer until some asshole judge has put your butt in jail for contempt!”

Businessman in handcuffs

I didn’t know if my friend Rob Gill from Louisiana was trying to comfort me, teach me, or was lying to me. I had called to ask Rob, a criminal defense specialist I became friends with in 1996 when we both attended Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College for advice on defending a contempt of court.

The Chambers Conference

The fat jowled judge with the ruddy imprint of alcoholism in his cheeks, made no secret of his disdain for my Palestinian client. My client was born in Columbia, spoke Spanish, and had never been to the Middle East, but that made no difference to the judge. He set out to scuttle the case, and drive the case to the result he wanted.

I weathered every storm during the trial, and wondered what the judge had up his sleeve when he invited counsel into chambers. “Well how do you think the jury will rule?”

Opposing counsel felt he would win. I disagreed, feeling my witnesses were convincing on the issue of interference with a commercial lease my client guaranteed.

“Are you kidding?” the judge asked, “I didn’t believe a damn thing those towel heads said.”

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Finding Imbedded Bias During Jury Selection

Forty potential jurors enter the courtroom bringing a unique set of imbedded feelings and values. You and your opponent examine the venire panel and strike the jurors averse to your respective clients. The surviving jurors rise, bring their right arms to the square and swear to “duly and fairly try the matter.” When the verdict is read at the conclusion of trial, the result shocks you and your opponent.

In a post trial ritual you and opposing counsel engage any of the jurors who will remain to talk to you. You are shocked at what the jurors thought the evidence was and how they arrived at their ridiculous verdict. They based their verdict on issues you and your opponent never raised and certainly never argued.

Read the first line of this blog. “Forty potential jurors enter the courtroom bringing a unique set of imbedded feelings and values.” If you don’t ferret out the “imbedded feelings and values” your jury will be ruling on your trial using “untried issues” to decide the case.

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Joan Rivers’ Greatest Lesson to Us.

I inherited my love of comedy from my mother. She had two favorites: Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers. My mother’s love for Joan Rivers spawned my love for her. Every Friday night my Tivo records the latest installment of Fashion Police, Joan Rivers’ last platform from which she launched her blue and irreverent assaults on celebrity foolishness.

While couched in terms of fashion and clothing, Joan’s sharp-tongued and absolutely fearless humor was more about people acting out in the public eye. She succeeded by saying what everyone else was thinking. She was at her best when she ventured (as she often did) into the blue, “I don’t think I’m good in bed; my husband never said anything, but after we made love he’d take a piece of chalk and outline my body.”

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